Nataša Rapaić, Igor Kanižaj, Robert Tomljenović and Ante Šalinović - IPSOS PULS
The Internet is the main source of information for the Croatian youth and also the crucial tool of socialisation, nevertheless, due to inadequate education about safe use of the Internet, young people too often become involved in different types of risky online behaviour, as has been concluded following the first comparative research on media habits of children conducted at the national level within the international project EU Kids Online that brings together 33 European countries.
The preliminary results of the research which was conducted amongst youth between 9 and 17 years of age, as well as amongst their parents, were presented by the partners of the project EU Kids Online, whose frontrunners are the Association for Communication and Media Culture (DKMK), the Agency for Electronic Media, and Hrvatski Telekom. Moreover, the research was supported by the Ministry of Science and Education and the Ministry for Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy.
(Un)safe on the Internet
The research has shown that most young people are allowed to use the Internet whenever they want, yet only every fourth respondent between 9 and 14 years of age, respectively only every third respondent between 15 and 17 years of age expressed concern for their Internet privacy. It has to be highlighted that there is an insufficient level of awareness of the risks implied, since one third of the young people questioned interact on the Internet with people they do not know, whereas every fourth teenager between 15 and 17 years of age has arranged a real-life meeting with the person they had first met online.
"This is the first step in a systematic research on media habits of both children and their parents based on which we will be able to develop new education policies in order to improve the media literacy of children and youth. According to the findings, both children and their parents require education concerning this issue. Furthermore, we need new models of media education, primarily in the group of children between 9 and 11 years of age, since that is a highly vulnerable period during which children require a more determined approach and help both by their parents and educational institutions", emphasised Igor Kanižaj, Vice-President of the Association for Communication and Media Culture (DKMK) and the Co-ordinator of the Croatian EU Kids Online team.
Face-to-face with violence
The research has shown that during the past year, over a half of young people questioned have received some type of inappropriate or upsetting message. Nevertheless, only 11% of them asked another person to help them, whilst most of them only shut down the site or app. The fact that one out of four young people ignores the problem has proved as highly concerning.
"Hrvatski Telekom is the leading telecommunications service provider in Croatia, which gives new opportunities for connection and content consumption for different generations. This role implies the responsibility to make the online world a safer place, especially for children, using all the available tools and services. Consequently, our campaign entitled "Share the positive, block the negative" is intended to provide support to the research that has brought together the academic community, non-government sector, and state institutions. Children and youth need to enjoy all the benefits provided by the Internet concerning communication, entertainment, and learning, albeit in a responsible and careful manner. In addition, we hold workshops intended for parents that address this issue, yet we believe that the data and recommendations resulting from the research will be used for development of concrete and systematic education policies", stated Nataša Rapaić, Member of the Management Board of Hrvatski Telekom and Chief Operational Officer Residential.
Parents, as the most important link between a child and the outside world, are not sufficiently involved in media education of their children. The research has shown that parents considerably more frequently talk with their younger children on the Internet and monitor their online activity, whilst teenagers generally primarily use the Internet without their parents’ supervision.
"The findings of the research confirm that efforts need to be additionally intensified and that we all need to jointly focus on improvement of media literacy. Moreover, the entire society needs to understand its importance. Media content exerts a significant impact on the lives of individuals, as well as on social trends. Safe use of the digital media ensures quality development and active participation in society. Hence, the Agency for Electronic Media will continue working on raising awareness about the importance of media literacy, jointly with the partners from the scientific community, educational and state institutions, and the media, striving to increase the frequency of addressing of this issue in the curricula and its integration in relevant government policies", pointed out Robert Tomljenović, Vice-President of the Electronic Media Council.
Other project partners are the City of Zagreb (Većeslava Holjevca Primary School), the Croatian Regulatory Authority for Network Industries (HAKOM), Centre for Missing and Exploited Children / Safer Internet Centre, whilst support has been provided by the Ministry of Science and Education and the Ministry for Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy.
Research partners will focus their further activity on the promotion of research findings and of the professional recommendations for the improvement of children’s online safety. The common objective is to provide a solid background for the creation of a new education policy with a special emphasis on strengthening of digital and media literacy amongst youth.
The official website of the Croatian project: http://hrkids.online